Farija Mehmeti

I was born in Pristina in 1978 and live in the village of Lepina. I started painting in 2001 after watching my brother Bajram paint scenes of Roma life. I paint portraits of Romani women, mostly from imagination, showing their colourful way of dressing up, in order to preserve this tradition and the culture of the Roma.

My first exhibition was in 2011, together with my brother, in the Oda theatre in the framework of the Roma Festival. My second exhibition, the first independent one, was in Pristina in Sepember 2011, organized by SURF. My third exhibition was in April 2012 together with my brother in the National Arts Gallery, on the occasion of the International Roma Day, 8th April. This exhibition was organized for us by the National Arts Gallery, the American Embassy and the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bajram Mehmeti

I was born in 1980 in the municipality of Lipljan. As long as I can remember, from when I started to go to school, I always loved to paint. Once I did a drawing as homework, and when I showed it to my teacher, he didn’t believe that I had done it and beat me up. He only believed me that I could paint after I once did a painting while in school. After primary school, on the advice of my parents, I enrolled at the agricultural school in Lipljan for agricultural technician. I attended this secondary school for four years and finished it in 1998. I wanted to continue to the Academy of Fine Arts, but my parents didn’t have a regular job and therefore didn’t have the money to pay for it. They only had seasonal work as day laborers in the corn fields. The money they earned was just enough to buy food and firewood for the winter. My two brothers and three sisters also couldn’t continue school; we all helped our parents in the fields.

The year 1999 was a very difficult time to live in Kosovo, but thanks God we all stayed alive and well.

In 2000, I heard on the radio that Zoran Živković accepts new students for his private school of painting in Ugljare, a Serb village in the neighbouring municipality. I was overjoyed and wrote down the phone number. I didn’t have a phone, but a friend of my mother allowed me to use hers so that I could call Zoran. At that time, the situation was still very tense in Kosovo and we couldn’t move freely, only escorted by KFOR soldiers. But one autumn day, me and my father went together to meet Zoran in Ugljare. In his beautiful garden there was an old house with two rooms, and that was the school of painting. He showed me paintings and other works of his students, and we agreed that I should come twice a week for classes. From then on, whenever I could, I went there and learned a lot from him, almost all painting techniques. We also had an exhibition, together with his other students, in 2001 in the primary school of Ugljare.

After that, I met Paul Polansky, an American writer, who at that time was living and working with Roma in the close by village of Preoce. At his proposal, I started to paint scenes of Roma life from imagination and sold him many in the years 2001 to 2003. He bought some 300 paintings from me and my sister Farija. In 2004, together with Andreas Meier and Andreas Wormser, he organized for me a first exhibition abroad in Vienna, Austria.

My second exhibition was in 2005 in Priština in the Parliament building; it was organized by the Roma and Ashkalia Documentation Center.

My third exhibition was in Berne, Switzerland, in 2006, together with Musa Šačiri; it was organized by Andreas Meier together with an organization from Switzerland.

More exhibitions were held in Ugljare at Zoran Živković’s school of painting in 2006 and in the Cultural Center in Gračanica also in 2006, on the occasion of the Serb holiday of Vidovdan commemorating the Kosovo battle of 1389, both together with other students of the school of painting in Ugljare.

In October 2009 within the framework of the project “Umetnost života” (“art of living”), there was another group exhibition together with other participants in the project, in the rooms of KIM radio in Čaglavica.

In March 2011, me and my sister exhibited our paintings in the ODA theatre in Priština, on the occasion of the Rolling Film Festival, a festival of Roma films.

The most recent exhibition was from 5th to 15th April 2012 in the National Arts Gallery in Priština, together with my sister Farija. It was organized by the National Arts Gallery, the US Embassy in Kosovo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.